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Kirk-Boon takes on Skees in House District 11 primary

by Colin Gaiser
Daily Inter Lake | May 1, 2020 1:00 AM

Republican Dee Kirk-Boon will challenge incumbent Derek Skees for the Montana House District 11 Republican nomination in the June 2 primary election. District 11 includes Lakeside, Somers and portions of the Lower Valley and Smith Valley areas.

Skees has held the position since 2017 and was also District 4 representative from 2011-2013.

Kirk-Boon is a past chair of the Flathead County Republican Party.

The winner of the primary election will be uncontested in the Nov. 3 general election. Early voting begins May 8.

Derek Skees

Age: 51

Family: Wife Ronalee Skees, three adult children and five grandchildren

Occupation: Self-employed construction consultant

Background: Worked as a manager with UPS for 12 years, then in the private sector in construction for 21 years.

Website and/or email: Derekskkes.com; derekskees @gmail.com

How does your background qualify you for the role of state representative?

My background as a small-business worker and owner gives me the perspective of how government works for us, and fails us at the small-business level. This runs the gamut of regulation success and failure, as well as tax burden, employee incentives in my industry by government mandate and the benefits and burdens of government on the private sector. My hobby is history, which also allows me to study what has worked before in our republic, what the role of government should be in relation to its citizens and a deeper understanding of our great Constitution.

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing our state, and what would you do to address that issue?

The most pressing issue is the coming push for a sales tax, as a third leg of a stool to support an over bloated, unaccountable executive branch of government that is too big already, with excessive corruption and spending issues. I am against a sales tax, without a Montana Constitutional amendment limiting the state to only two forms of tax at one time, out of sales, income and property. We are taxed enough already, and adding a third form of taxation will depress our economy even more. We will also be trying to survive this COVID 19 shutdown, and its unintended consequences on Montana families, business and the health of the state of Montana in the next cycle.

How do you feel about how the state is allocating its money? Could the Legislature better prioritize state spending, and how?

The state is working toward more transparency on executive spending, thanks to a large effort by your legislative branch, and this is good for Montana. The next step would be zero-based budgeting, where each department starts the new biennium with zero dollars, having to justify what works with spending, and what doesn’t with reductions.

Montana continues to rank as one of the worst states in the nation for mental health and suicide rates. How would you work to improve this ranking?

We have been working with the many facets of suicide and mental health every cycle, and things are getting better (we are no longer the highest rate), but we have a long way to go. I think the key is more economic possibilities for families to be able to advance themselves out of low income status. We are still one of the lowest rates of average income in America, and we need to get back into high paying natural resource gathering industries that can support families that we were built upon.

Let’s get the Treasure State back to work, accessing our natural resources like timber, mining and agriculture! We can do this by easing back red tape and regulations that are not based upon science, while maintaining the high level of stewardship for our natural places. They aren’t mutually exclusive, as has been the model for the last 16 years.

How do you assess the state’s and Gov. Bullock’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How would you begin to ensure our economy bounces back from measures such as temporarily closing non-essential businesses?

I think the governor’s response was heavy handed, and violated not only his statutory authority, it was a near complete suspension of our rights. We have long held in America that our rights are granted by God, not government, so even within a crisis, these rights are not theirs to take away. We have embraced a solution that is more damaging than the disease.

We need to work with President Trump, and phase business back on line based upon risk, have more personal responsibility to self-quarantine the at-risk groups, and continue to develop more information on the actual death rate and risk factors. It seems this is looking more like a weak flu than the horrendous situation the models incorrectly predicted.

Dee Kirk-Boon

Age: 55

Family: Married 30 years; spouse Jack Boon

Occupation: Co-owner Jack’s Diesel Service Inc. in Kalispell and part-time landscaper.

Background: 15-year banking career; 16 years co-owning Jack’s Diesel Service Inc.

Website and/or email: http://deekirkboonformontana.com/; deekirkboon@gmail.com; “Dee Kirk-Boon for MT House District 11” on Facebook

How does your background qualify you for the role of state representative?

I grew up in Lake County on our family farm, so agriculture and business had a huge influence on my life. Having been a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of the Kirk family farm in Lower Valley gave me a unique perspective and long-lasting friendships in the Flathead Valley. We have been fortunate to live in Lakeside/Somers, Bigfork and Kalispell the past 30-plus years.

Our business is located in Kalispell which we started from the ground up and are in our 16th year of business. Most of our business is from the “blue-collar” working individual, building/trade sector and farmers and ranchers.

For the past 10 years, I have been in various leadership roles in our local and state organizations for the Republican party. I’ve been elected to serve in the Republican Women for consecutive years, and also elected to serve multiple terms in the local Republican Party. Fundraising was a major component and time commitment in each of these roles. Working in a team environment, we were successful in many events for the Flathead Republican Party.

During these years, I have been able to work with many of our legislators, legislative candidates as well as state-wide candidates during the election cycle. When the legislative session is convened, I usually spend those months working with various groups on legislation issues.

I have served on several nonprofit boards, as well as service committees within our church. Currently, I am involved in chamber organizations and discussion groups mostly pertaining to business and economics. For eight years I served as the Lakeside/Somers Chamber Executive Director which gave me insight into the unique business structure of small communities and the residents and visitors in which they serve.

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing our state, and what would you do to address that issue?

Within the past two months, the most critical issue facing our state is recovering from what will be the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy and our Montana way of life. Business owners like myself will want to look at all taxes and revenues and look for ways to reduce taxes, which are a burden to homeowners and businesses.

How do you feel about how the state is allocating its money? Could the Legislature better prioritize state spending, and how?

The 2021 legislative session will undoubtedly be the session of how to meet the state’s obligations of funding priorities with reduced revenues. As a small-business owner working through this current economic disaster, you become very creative in your business and personal budgets really fast. You look at your entire budget; what obligations are 100% necessary and what can you do without until revenues are rolling in again. Communication with the governor and department personnel will be key to working towards what is best for Montana.

Montana continues to rank as one of the worst states in the nation for mental health and suicide rates. How would you work to improve this ranking?

Montana does have a higher number of suicides per capita. The 2021 Legislature will need to work with the governor to prioritize spending and look for ways to partner with medical and mental-health professionals. Greater access to health-care needs to be made available in our smaller and more rural communities. We need to work towards a more comprehensive treatment plan for mental health.

The current health crisis has taught us many lessons, and one of them is having access to their doctors via telemedicine. Where appropriate, telemedicine in Montana has more potential benefits and cost-saving measures for our health providers.

How do you assess the state’s and Gov. Bullock’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How would you begin to ensure our economy bounces back from measures such as temporarily closing non-essential businesses?

At the time, I believe that the Governor took appropriate and prudent action in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. All data indicated in states that did not observe social distancing, the numbers of people getting sick, and even dying increased exponentially. Of course, these were heavily populated cities and states, and the data suggested certain directives and procedures be observed and followed. In cases where there is limited data, and hourly information, I believe “caution” is always the better choice and as a Montana legislator, I will always vote to protect and care for Montana citizens no matter what the issue.

As our health professionals move forward and continue to analyze the data of COVID-19, we will better understand how to proceed in the future and how to react if and when we have another relapse or another strain of flu. In Montana, we are fortunate to have wide-open spaces which have helped to keep the containment of infected cases to low numbers.

Beginning April 27, our state began Phase 1, which our governor set no expiration date for completion. We need to monitor the data while we get our businesses open and capture what revenues we can for the summer months. Without the steady stream of visitors, we will see store closures and some businesses that may have decided already not to “re-open” due to the decline of business. Small businesses make up the vast majority of businesses in Montana, and they simply do not have the cash on hand to weather a long drawn out financial storm that could last a year to two years.

Hospitality, guest services, caterers and event venues have virtually had their businesses wiped out due to COVID-19. Without visitors and scheduled events such as banquets, recreational and home shows, these businesses have not had revenues for over two months. Summer cancellations and postponed events for reunions, concerts, etc. are now their new reality. This “trickle-down” will have a huge impact on all our communities.

One of the most critical industries in Montana is our agriculture sector. Farmers and ranchers are bearing the brunt of the worst economic times not only in Montana but nationwide. Our farmers and ranchers are more than “essential” businesses and we need to be sure that they are supported with the resources necessary for farming success. The beef market has been hit hard with large meatpackers having record profits while ranchers see the prices of their fat cattle fall to record low prices and even losses. There needs to be market fairness for stockgrowers.

As we begin to move around, we will naturally see some visitors in the Flathead. Take personal responsibility and measures for yourself and your family and get outdoors and enjoy our public lands, parks, and lakes and reconnecting with your favorite businesses and eateries. Be considerate of individuals with compromised immune systems, and keep checking in on your neighbors, friends and family members. As our largest employers begin to call back their workforce, parents will be adjusting to new child-care routines and new stresses of remote learning for their children.

During critical times like what we are experiencing now should not be politicized, but everyone should be encouraged to work together to effect the best possible outcome for our communities and our State. We need to get back to work and get our businesses up and running so that we don’t end up with more economic crises.

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Derek Skees